Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Check Out My Tattoo!

So what do you think? What's that? You don't see any tattoo? Well, there's good reason for that. There isn't one there. But I'm seriously considering putting one there. And I have been for a very long time! It's not that I'm afraid of the pain, my tattooed friends say it hurts like a burn, and God knows I've burned myself before. And there isn't any kind of societal taboo--many "normal" people get tattooed now. (Tattoos, they're not just for the armed forces any more!) Partly it's that I know that my parents dislike the idea of tattooing on general principles. Of course, every child must break away from his parents eventually... but that's not why I'm considering getting a tattoo, either. Getting a tattoo for the purpose of rebelling, or even just to differentiate yourself, is a stupid move. After all, tattoos are pretty much permanent. Yes, there is the laser procedure, but really, who would want to do that? The fact is, if you're going to spend money on a tattoo, you need to treat it as something that will be on your body forever. Knowing this, there are several things you need to consider, and consider very carefully.

First of all, what are you going to get? In my opinion, if it's something that is worth having on your body 'til the day you die, it has to have a great deal of meaning to you. To me this means that you shouldn't put names of just about anything (possibly your children, but even then I'm a little wary) but especially not your boyfriend or girlfriend, your favorite band, or your favorite actor or actress.
For some people, something that they find particularly beautiful is enough to bestow that kind of meaning. Personally, I would have to have something a little more poetic, or symbolic--something that has multiple layers of meaning--and meaning deserving of some kind of permanency. And I don't mean to say that one should discount beauty. After all, a tattoo is a piece of artwork (or at least it should be, in my opinion). If you don't like the way it looks, for goodness' sake, don't permanently put it on your body!

Secondly, where are you going to put it? For guys, the rules are pretty easy. Unless your profession is (a)tattooist (b)professional wrestler or
(c)sideshow freak you should never ever tattoo your hands, face, or neck. Basically, if it will show when you're wearing a shirt and tie, don't do it. It's more difficult for women, as their formal wear tends to be more revealing in more kinds of places than men.
Our friend, Kris (there she is with us in Florida) told us a cool story about why her tattoos are where they are. She was planning on putting her first one up on her shoulder, but then she saw a woman in a beautiful evening gown--and a shoulder tattoo. To her eyes, the tattoo, as pretty as it was, totally ruined the effect of the evening gown. She has two tattoos on her lower back, and she says that she's successfully worn a very low-backed gown without them getting in the way. (Of course, a t-shirt and jeans is another matter).

So what tattoo am I considering? Well, you've already seen where, in the pic at the top of the page. Put on my shoulder like that, I can keep it hidden even under a short sleeved shirt. But what would I get? Something with some religious significance that ties directly to my faith journey? Something related to my love of the fantasy genre? Something beautiful? Yes. Yes. And yes. I've been inspired by the artwork on the cover of my copy of the collected Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis. As most of you know, Lewis' classic work has deeply influenced me over the years. The titular Lion, Aslan, is a vibrant characterization of the Christ as He would appear if there were a world of talking animals such as is found in Beatrix Potter or Kenneth Grahame.
Aslan is a part of my childhood. Aslan is a part of my first thundering epiphany ("You know those books are about the Gospel, right?"). Aslan represents my first struggles with anything resembling an organized theology. Aslan is tied up in one of my first projects in my first full time position as an ordained minister. Aslan is a concrete example of how popular culture and faith do not have to be separate. Do you think maybe that's enough meaning tied into a single image? 'Cause I'm sure I could keep going.

So, I know where, and I know what, to an extent anyway. Two major decisions remain. One decision is to bring that cover art to a tattoo artist and see if she or he can adapt it so that it would make a good looking tattoo. The second is to actually get the thing done.

Neither of those things has happened yet.

Guess we'll have to wait and see.

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